Sunday, March 13, 2005

M stand for Maggiano's

Yesterday we make a pilgrimage to our favorite grocer. I say pilgrimage because it is an hour and a half drive away on a Saturday. Two hours on a weekday. While driving into Orange County is a 'treat', for those of us who live in the desert, the traffic takes most of the fun out of it. So when you plan a trip it usually includes several stops. Our trip this time was to attend Bristol Farms Spring Catering Fair - primary reason - then to stop by a Container Store, an Apple store, and of course, a stop at a favorite restaurant to enjoy a late lunch.

I'll talk about the other destinations in other posts, this one is dedicated to Maggiano's. Maggiano's is an Italian restaurant we discovered when our middle daughter was gravely ill during her pregnancy last year. We would spend the day at the hospital, then duck out to find some dinner, and go back to the hospital to spend the rest of the evening waiting for traffic to subside before driving home.

Maggiano's is located at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It is a family style dining restaurant. The food is simple yet complex. They strive to have the best service, best food, and the best wait times between courses. They encourage family dining by having a menu specifically for a family dining experience. For $24.95 per person (tables of four), two appetizers, you select two salads (or two of the same if it's your favorite), two pastas, two main courses, two vegetables, and two desserts. You can also order off the menu a variety of pastas, steak, chicken, veal or seafood if you so choose.

Yesterday, we chose to order off the menu since there was just the two of us. We began with the Bruschetta. It was marvelous. Chopped fresh tomatoes, blended with roasted garlic, basil and olive oil. The relish is served over toasted sourdough slices and topped with parmesan slices. It was the perfect temperature, the toast still mildly warm and the relish icy cold. The blend of garlic to basil to tomatoes was perfect. The parmesan slices bring out the flavors of all. In fact yesterday the combination of parmesan and tomatoes brought forth the flavor of strawberries as I scooped up the trailings on the plate left after the toast had been consumed.

We both ordered the Chicken Parmesan with a side of Spaghetti with Marinara sauce. The chicken was cooked well, not mushy, as I've experienced it in the past other places. with just enough mozzarella and sauce to accompany it. The pasta was cooked slightly al dente, my favorite way to eat it. (We had dined Friday evening with friends in town at another pasta place and the difference in the technique to cooking the pasta correctly was clear.) There is nothing worse then ordering a plate of capellini and having it come to you in such an over cooked mass as to resemble large fat spaghetti noodles. Ugh. But that's another restaurant indeed.

We have dined at Maggiano's on several occasions. A word of advice. Believe the server when he tells you at 9 p.m. that it's okay to order 1/2 portions as they are generous and filling. Or be ready to cart home tomorrows' lunch. I recommend the Angel Hair Coach Joey Z's Pomodoro, the Linguine with Chicken, Pesto and Pinenuts, the Lasagne, the homemade Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce. To finsh off the meal we shared a Profiterole. Mmmm!

The family environment of Maggiano's is what I enjoy most. The tables are close, the witers are prompt and the music is loud enough not to be obnoxious though. Everyone seems to really enjoy the atmosphere and the general sense of implied family. I highly recommend you stop in and sit with the 'family' to enjoy a meal sometime. The price range for two - $30 -$100 depending on what you choose to order and if you have dessert.